Wednesday, October 26, 2016

5 Teamwork Tips for SLPs

My friends and fellow bloggers, the Frenzied SLPs, have inspired me to blog about teamwork. (check out all of their wise words on the blogs at the bottom this post). Work relationships can be complicated; they can be dreamy or they can be a nightmare! I've experienced both while working in schools. In my new position, I work on a team with diverse, experienced, top notch educators ranging from former special education teachers, behavior specialists, preschool teachers, former principals, an ABA therapist and a psychologist. We work in very close quarters in an open door/suite environment. 
It's imperative that we work as a team to support our district.

Want to know a secret? I like working alone!! I was that kid that hates group projects because I ended up doing it all while everyone else goofed off, didn't pull their weight and then got a good grade thanks to my hard work. UGH I hate that! 
If it were up to me I would be like Mr. Incredible...

I work alone. 

 Unfortunately here we are in 2016 and teams are the ticket.  My new co-workers have been in leadership roles longer than I have; I am the new kid on the block. I have learned so much from them, and I'm still learning. I am sure I will always be learning; I hope so.  
My motto is, "When you're done learning, your done."

Wanna hear some of the things I've learned? 

1) Don't get hung up on titles. Be like Elsa and LET IT GO. 
I've been brought into the team to be the resident communication/speech/language/hearing expert of sorts. Coming from all realms of education, my cohorts call me all sorts of things- many of which do not include the words speech-language pathologist, and to me, that's okay. I refer to myself as that casually, but I do not get hung up on what others call me nor would I ever correct them. The same was true during the 20 years I was based at a school. Why? Because semantics do not matter- what matters is what you offer to students, what you offer to the team and your actions on a daily basis. We are proud of our profession, and we are proud of our CCCs and we should be but proclaiming our title does not earn respect. When you make yourself indispensable on a school campus, work alongside teachers as an equal and share your talents to benefit students, people GET it. They get what we do and why we are special. If you correct others or use your title to gain respect, you will likely get the opposite. I hear the buzz about how we should demand people call us SLPs. I can guarantee that the minute I would have done that on a campus, no teacher would want me in their classroom.  The same is true for any word/action/attitude that communicates, "I am better than you, I have a title that is deserving of respect and you should listen to me." Think of the team members you respect...did they gain your respect from a title or from their actions and quality of their work?  

2) HUSH, and listen 3 times more than you speak.
I freaking LOVE to talk. I was the kid that raised their hand for every question and always volunteered to go to the board. Boy was I overzealous! During team meetings and projects, I have to force myself to hush my mouth. By nature, I'm an interrupter. It's not out of rudeness really-it's out of shear excitement over the conversation.  Luckily, I know that about myself (and really really try to keep myself in check) but didn't realized how annoying it was until I worked with another interrupter. It is clearn that the person who always demands the floor gets on everyone's last nerve in a meeting. It's something I'm constantly working on. A teacher who I consider my mentor (I call her my Yoda) once told me that everyone should listen 3 times as much as they speak.  I took that to heart and remind myself of that constantly (and fail miserably at this often) but you know what I've noticed since I've been actively trying to become a better listener? That people thank you!! People often tell me, "Thank you for listening."  Not once has anyone EVER said, "Thank you for talking." 

3) Volunteer; Don't wait to be asked.  
To be a real team member, you have to volunteer. Otherwise, you're just an appendage- the weak link. Many SLPs tell me that teachers do not seem to want them in their classroom. My question is always, "Have you told them what you can do for them?" I get answers like, "Well, no." or "She doesn't even tell me what they're learning and doesn't email me her lesson plans." "She isn't doing anything that's relevant to me when I'm in there." Try to understand why teachers feel this way- would you want to plan your therapy sessions only for a teacher (who is getting equal or higher pay) to traipse in having planned nothing and get to mooch off of your lesson? I know I wouldn't! I would give her the ole stink eye and hope she never came back! Offer to plan the ELA lesson. Offer to make or bring materials for the lesson. Let her keep the materials for her other students. Offer to plan with her (whatever that entails). Offer to teach the whole class if you have to - show her you are not afraid to do your part and you have mad skills. It won't take long for her to see you are a team player and you want to be part of her team- not just a parasite. Before you know it she will be begging you to come to class, bragging to her coworkers about the cool things y'all do in her room, and asking to work with you each year. By volunteering you become an asset- and that builds team relationships. By the way, that doesn't mean you teach the class while she goes hang out in the teacher's lounge. Be so good she wouldn't want to miss a minute! 

4) Keep your word.   
Who wants an unreliable teammate? Not me! If you take on or are assigned a task, get it done and done on time. Know how I learned that? From everyone gossiping about the person who didn't pull their weight. YIKES! Let's not be that person. They would surely be chosen last in a school yard pick! 

5) Give grace and give thanks.
You know that teammate everyone is ticked off at?  Give that person some grace. If you hold a grudge, resentment builds and no team can thrive with resentment. I know because I've been on a rotten festering team like that- it makes you dread going to work everyday. Lastly, give thanks to your teammates for the little and big things they do. Who doesn't like to be acknowledged? No one I know. Chocolate and sticky notes go a long way. Of course, since I'm a word nerd I tend to be a note writer.  No one ever kicked the nice person off the team. 

This version found written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. 
 Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  
It was never between you and them anyway.


Friday, October 14, 2016

I can't sleep. It's time I stop avoiding writing about the flood.

It's 3 am here.   
I'm up for so many reasons - a wicked cold, a tense parent conference today, pain from an auto accident, etc. I decided to see if my own blog still existed, and low and behold it does :) 

I couldn't even remember what my last blog post was. As I sit here reading, I notice it's from August 11.  On Thursday, August 11, I held our district's annual "Back to School SLP Meeting." It was a scary but fun day - my first time to launch the school year as my district's special ed. coordinator for speech, language and hearing services. I planned for weeks to make sure I had good content to offer, AND so many of my blogger friends sent goodies for me to give as door prizes! <3 font="">

As the day went on, we started getting reports of flash floods in the areas, then reports of road and bridge closures. We dismissed a little early that day so that everyone could get home as we kept getting word that we may experience "historic flooding."  After a summer of continual rain, six inches came down on August 11 with much more predicted on the way.  Little did we know that many in that room would end the week homeless. 

That night we learned that school would be cancelled Friday, and Friday a foot of rain fell in the greater Baton Rouge area. My family and I hunkered down- glued to the news. The reports started of cars being swept off the roadway; in fact, reporters caught it all on tape. My husband and I watched in horror as we watched live footage of people in their cars being swept away in the flood current on roads that no one realized were impassable- with no one able to brave the waters to rescue them. Several Louisianians died that day by attempting to drive through flood waters. No one realized how bad this would be. 

More than 30 inches of rain fell in less than 48 hours.  Rivers reached record breaking flood stages. Our neighboring parishes,  Livingston, and many parts of the city of Baton Rouge were under water.  Thousands of people evacuated their homes by foot or by boat. Roads were unnavigable or closed. 

A New Orleans Times Picayune reporter documented week one in photos here.  

Now... we are used to rain, y'all. It is WET here all the time, but this was rain that had never been seen before. 

It was soon being called "the Great Flood of 2016" and the "1000 year flood."

(both of these photos taken from the video at the end of this post)
While first responders did what they could, it was the local fisherman/sportsmen that became the heroes. Regular guys/fishermen gassed up their boats and went door to door rescuing people from their rooftops, their upstairs windows, and some even from their beds as water rose while people slept- without them even knowing.  

They are now being called The Cajun Navy. My hat goes off to these guys. Without them this flood would have resulted in an unthinkable number of lives lost.  One of them happens to be a former students of mine who, to my surprise, popped up on NBC news!

A local newspaper rode along for a rescue you can view here; like so many, the family and their dogs in the video were rescued from the roof of their home.

A family friend of ours was awoken by a phone call from his neighbor to get out the house and get into his boat. He only realized water had risen in his home when picking up the phone resulted in a splash on his bedside table. So many evacuated while others hunkered down in their homes with no no way out. Another friend of ours laid in his bed and simply watched the waters rise throughout the night.   

Read my fellow school SLP's, story about her family's heart wrenching evacuation here. 

Oh, and don't think all the fur babies and four legged were left behind. No way.
Louisianians are nothing if not big hearted. Animals were moved to dry land, sheltered, cared for by vets, and/or found new homes.

Much to our dismay, it continued to rain.  And rain.  Rain waters had no where to drain, and the flood waters kept rising in our Ascension Parish. While I live on some of the highest land in Ascension Parish and felt like our home would be safe, the calls and texts flooded in from friends and family who had either evacuated or whose homes had already taken in water. Everyone searched for a dry friend, neighbor or family member. Traffic was gridlocked with cars moving about 1 mile per hour. Everyone was in search of a dry place to land or trying to get to a family member's home. Gas and groceries became scarce and shelters filled up. I took in my niece who could no longer get to her home. We watched the news and waited and held our breath.

And then many lost power and even more lost cell service - everyone with AT&T was completely disconnected. With tensions already high, now on one could check on family members. Believe it or not, facebook messenger (IF you had power and IF you had wifi) was the only way to communicate.

We weren't the only ones holding our breath. The messages flooded into my inbox of friends saying "pray it stops; we have about an inch before it comes into our house" and pictures of their front stoops with water right at the edge or other messages like "we are lifting the furniture and then we will leave or "we are staying with ______ please pray."

Before long our Ascension Parish was overtaken by flooding as well. With nowhere for the relentless rain nor the flood waters to drain, we started to experience back water- water coming UP the drains- you know, the drains in front of your home that are supposed to take rainwater away.

Our neighboring St. Amant was devastated by flooding as well as all of the schools in that area
2 primary schools
 1 PK-8 school
 2 middle schools
and 1 huge high school

That's when I knew that life as our community knows it would not be the same for a very long time.

Waters in many parts of Ascension didn't drain until September and beyond. Many homes stood with water in them for 2 weeks- with families unable to even begin the clean up process.

Many have not even begun. Today as we drove through devastated areas of Livingston Parish, it was clear that many must feel too hopeless to even start.

All we knew to do was cook- cook for the people who had lost everything,  offer our washer and dryer,  gather as many dry containers as possible for our flooded friends, offer a dry place to come, clean out our closets for those without clothes, blankets and bedding (there are still many Cajuns sleeping on floors and makeshift beds here), offer a helping hand and bring food and love on people.

For Cajuns, gumbo makes everything better- at least for a little while.

Overall, I find people are tired but determined.

The Red Cross has been here as well as Billy Graham's ministry, and countless others. Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint have come to help and are living in tents in our oppressive Louisiana heat. Volunteers have descended upon the Baton Rouge from across the south and far beyond, and we are so grateful.

It is late October now. You can still see debris on the sides of the roads in many places. Sadly, this is the new landscape.

Like @madiganlarson says above, many did not have flood insurance; they didn't because their home was never supposed to flood, and they weren't in a flood zone. Most who did - did not have the contents of their homes covered.

This is my dear friend, Susie. She has a divine design blog and makes the best signs - most of which were ruined and/or floated away during the flood.  Funny enough her signs kept popping up in the flood and then found by rescuers. Read her story here.

She and thousand of other have gutted their homes and the amount of water soaked and stained items is too great for waste management to tackle.

The clean up and war against the mold (thanks again, Louisiana heat) is finally done for most. It's the re-building stage now.

While sheet rock and building supplies were hard to come by initially, it's coming along. My co-workers dart away for brief chances to meet with FEMA workers to cut through the red tape, meet with adjusters, find available contractors, or meet workers at their homes with hopes they show up.

There are estimates that 31% of homes in our area were flooded- that's about 1 in every three families. That sounds about right - about 1in every 3 of my coworkers are still living with another (generous, patient) family member or friend,  living in a FEMA trailer, etc.

Here are FEMA trailers in Baton Rouge waiting to be delivered to displaced families.

Until they are, they are homeless. The shelters have now closed, and people who had no place to go were dispersed amongst motels across the state.  A third of our district's SLPs were affected by the flood- many evacuated by boat. Eight of our schools are currently unusable with those SLPs displaced- at other schools or makeshift campuses. It's tough. One has since resigned and another has chosen to retire. I don't blame them. It's a struggle here in Ascension, but as our Superintendent said...Ascension means to rise.... We will rebuild and rise above this.  Better days are ahead.

Check out how Ellen and Britney are helping our very own schools!

OHHhhh and not to mention... the SLP love AND DONATIONS from across the country - and even further- have been amazing- overwhelming really! Please be sure to read my next post about THAT goodness!

Right now I am just grateful that my home was spared but heartbroken for my friends who are hurting, who are tired, who are financially stressed, whose relationships (from living under such close quarters) are strained, who are frustrated and beaten down by bureaucracy, who want life to be normal again.

And I am proud. I am proud to live in a place where people band together- where they don't hestitate to give respite and care- where generosity and hospitality flows are freely as wine does.

Right before the flood, our city was riddled with racial tension and anger from the shootings of Alton Sterling and several beloved police officers. Thankfully this tragedy has brought a much needed wave of colorblindness.  Facebook posts across the state proclaimed, "There are only 2 kinds of people in Louisiana, dry people and wet people" and USAtoday summed it up like this...

Blacks, whites, Latinos, Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Republicans, Democrats and the family pet are all working together to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, rescue the endangered and comfort the bereaved, and I mean that literally. My former synagogue, Beth Shalom, has converted itself into a staging ground for the collection and distribution of food, medicine and clothing. Ditto Istrouma Baptist. Ditto Caring to Love Ministries. Ditto Our Lady of Mercy. Ditto First United Methodist. And it’s not just people like my friend Becky’s nephew who have taken it upon themselves to use their recreational boats as rescue machines: The mainly white members of the “Cajun Navy” are also at it, rescuing citizens of all shades. I could go on, but basically everyone whose own home, spiritual or individual, is still intact is doing what they can to help.

Click here to listen and look 

If you are so inclined to pray, please say a prayer for those affect by the flood. They have a long road ahead.
To those of you who have been praying, volunteering and donating all along, we feel it. Thanks for the love.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why I've Been MIA (missing in action!)

Hey y'all! I'm back! 
This summer I gave myself permission to take a break from blogging to soak up as much fun and relaxation as I could.  It was the last summer of "life as we know it" since my son is starting college. Plus, this was by far the shortest summer in my career. With my new job, my summer has been whittled down to a measley 5.5 weeks. YIKES! 
It was quite an eventful summer; here's the recap! 

Riley (my bebe) graduated from high school with big time honors!

In early June I went to an amazing conference in New Orleans for special education adminstrators and left completely inspired. Not to mention, had some bonding time with my new co-workers! 
I highly recommend the "escape the room" adventures! We chose the "vampire room" to be locked in for 1 hour, and we managed to solve the puzzles and slay the vampire with only 59 seconds to spare! It was   
SO   MUCH   FUN!! 

We also hit up some yummy New Orleans restaurants and my absolute favorite spot (it a yard, y'all) for hanging out, chatting and listening to live jazz, Bacchanal Wine. 

Like any southerner worth their salt, we hit the Gulf Coast and put our toes and bums in the sand- The Margaritaville Hotel @ Pensacola Beach, FL to be exact.  Pure bliss! 

I did work on a TpT product, my Ocean Fun Pack,  while I was there - I mean it was the PERFECT place to be inspired!  My family even helped me photograph it in the sand. I love that they support my obsessions :) 

I went to physical therapy for a wicked case of tennis elbow (I mean, I don't even play tennis!). 
Dry needling finally did the trick. I know it looks like a scene out of that Hellraiser movie, but it feels so good afterward! Amazing!

I did a BUNCH of therapy with private clients.  I just adore these little hands...

and we easily got 200 productions with these pacing boards

Lots of summer themed therapy! Even working for mermaids :) 

I love an ocean theme for summer! 

and of course there was dot art....

including the beloved flip flops

and the feeding of sharks YIKES! (which was requested again and again) 

My big mouth sticky toss was a huge hit this summer, too.  
(I got it from Oriental Trading, but sadly, it's been discontinued.)

Oh and I highly recommend this new Educational Insights game - 
Sophie's Seashell Scramble featuring Sophie the Seal. 

I also used Sophie's shells (and goldfish crackers) in place of magnetic tokens for artic
therapy!  Make one preschooler very happy...

as did this unicorn popper....(!) 

My goal was to spend time with my parents this summer which I, thankfully, was able to do. 
We took them (and our pups) on a mini road trip to Galveston, TX! 

The Strand are in Downtown Galveston was lovely, and we made some wonderful memories. 

My best friend from Houston made the drive to Galveston to visit with us as an added bonus!

My sisters and I also took my mom for a 80 years young birthday getaway to L'auberge Casino in Lake Charles! We never walked into the casino, but we did hit the lazy river and shopped until we dropped. We had a great time, and I can't wait to return! 

I made everyone participate in my summer obsession- snapchat filters!!!! 

(the joys of having a waterproof iPhone case)

And I can't leave out the lazy pajama days I spent with my furbabies!!  
I love these neurotic little girls! 

Or the pool time with the fam!

(omg it's too miserably hot here to be anywhere outdoors but in the pool!) 

Fourth of July came with lots of food and family! 

Finally it was time to think about going back to school. My first day was coming- July 21. 

My husband (knowing I would never be quite content with my used and abused office walls) volunteered to paint my office...

You know that's true love right there :)

My office was ready for my first day back (I've been back at work a while now)

All the while, our home looks like a patchwork quilt because we are trying to decide on new paint colors. Sigh. 

All of it was a much needed distraction from the sadness engulfing our Baton Rouge area. 
We finished painting my office while protests carried on just miles away and 
1 day before the tragic shooting of Baton Rouge police officers. 

I do believe our little community is changed forever. 
May we find peace here.

We may need even more prayers as we brace ourselves for what they are calling "historic flooding."  All school is cancelled tomorrow.  

Normally I would be pumped but just today I met with the 42 SLPs who work in our parish. I left feeling inspired and energized and ready for the best school year yet.  I'm wishing the same for you! 

Jasper Roberts Consulting - Widget